Ecuador participated in the 56th Venice Biennale, represented by the artist Maria Veronica Leon with, “Gold Water: Apocalyptic Black Mirrors”. The presence of the Ecuadorian Pavilion in the Venice Biennale was sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage of Ecuador, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador and the Embassy of Ecuador in Italy.
About the artwork of Maria Veronica, highlighted the high quality, the feminine force, the innovative spirit and artistic passion are evident throughout the exhibition halls. All resources used by Maria Veronica show us that she is a multifunctional artist who combines with special skills, different visual and auditory elements that along the four showrooms delights , seduce and challenges us.
Maria Veronica underlines the dimension of gold through an extraordinary digital cosmography, to locate the talent of pre-Columbian cultures in a cutting-edge structure and catapult new ideas and artworks that branch this process towards future cultural contexts. The artist recycles ancient practices to work with “virtual gold” or artificial gold (acrylic, oil, gold leaf, gold spray, etc.), which gives the illusion of easy access to this metal, but it’s just a representation of its appearance, its light and its intense reflections.
Maria Veronica Leon was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. From 1998 to 2013 she lived and worked in Paris. In 2014 she set up in Dubai, U.A.E. where she works now. From her experience in visual arts, music, dance and for the four rooms of the first independent Pavilion of Ecuador at the 56 International Art Exhibition- La Biennale di Venezia, this remarkable Ecuadorian artist has created in exclusivity a multimedia landscape with her new video audio polyptych installations incorporating drawing, printing, art video, photography, objects and sound as interrelated visual techniques, that display as she says, in a “techno-theater” where water proclaims, as a life fountain, a new state of mind. This exhibition is inspired by the state of two of the natural primary sources of wealth in Ecuador: Water and Gold. They are extracted from their original context to be critically re-examined through its history, society, economy and culture in relation to global economic values, to be metamorphosed in impressive new artworks.
Gold Water: Apocalyptic Black Mirrors
From the artist´s experience in visual arts, music and dance, and for the four rooms of the first independant Pavilion of Ecuador at la Biennale di Venezia, Maria Veronica Leon has created a multimedia landscape with her new video audio polyptych installations, incorporating drawings, video, photography, objects and sound as interrelated visual techniques, that display, as she says, in a “techno-theater” where water element proclaims, as a life fountain, a new state of mind.
“Gold Water: Apocalyptic Black Mirrors”is inspired by the state of two of the natural primary sources of wealth in Ecuador: Water and Gold. They are extracted from their original context to be critically re-examined through its history, society, economy and culture in relation to global economic values.
Maria Veronica herself creates the digital, shoots all the videos, edits them, paints and draws characters and symbols, writes the script, and designs the soundtrack.
Gold, another capitalist symbol, another object of desire, another thing to fight for, another material misused is present in the exhibition in a different way, through photography, drawing, painting and video, recycling Ecuadorian ancestor’s practices who elaborated gold masks and objects using hammered and embossing techniques. Our ancestors reflected their own physiognomies, unusual bodies, and beyond their original physiognomies and wisdom is their resemblance with the God Sun. But these faces could be seen also like unique, bizarre and extra-terrestrial creatures communicating in deep space.
In “Gold Powder Mask Healing”, the artist is reflected like a timeless creature, materialized by her own masks and acrylic chemical composition, that represents her Latin traces in a contemporary universal locality, with a developed consciousness of today and tomorrow’s phenomena. This particular artwork is made in different medias: self-painting, photography (on Hahnemuhle and metal), and painting on photography.
“One of my goals is to open a new gap of creation with gold, authentic or artificial, to place it in an exclusive artistic context, with innovative ideas and aesthetic different applications. I will launch some capital ideas so that gold may be elaborated in a new way within the territory from which it has been extracted, to preserve it for the internal cultural and socio-economic development of the population, and to stimulate the production and exportation of art made with gold, for a positive revolution in the national and international market”.
“This is a Gold and Water Virtual Galaxy, a Big Bang representing the occlusion of these two elements in the future. In this galaxy, spheres and spirals interact in a potential dynamics around “The Sun God”, creating in its own system new stars, constellations and virtual gold planets that are agitated by solar energy and water vibrational energy. Geometrical and kaleidoscopic water’s visions appear showing us Nature unfolding and the power of Light.
Video is the ideal technique to illustrate the life and energy of water, its movements and states, as well the changes from one state to another. Both elements, Gold and Water, -key to the future of Humanity-, are life sustaining, physically and economically, yet the paradox is that in order to extract gold water sources are often destroyed. In “Gold Water: Apocalyptic Black Mirrors” the convergence of Art and Science forges an artistic amalgam, a prophetic myth of a future dystopia created by man’s annihilation of nature and his blind obedience to consumerism.
Starting from this perspective, Maria Veronica Leon explores the mnemonic traces of our relationship with water and gold. From the mechanization of a water bottling landscape, through her video art work we see an industrial choreography where factory workers flow to the sounds with synchronized steps and movements.
Workers are in charge of bottling water for its future commerce and their robotic motions are repeated endlessly. Impressive metallic concerto gave the artist the first notes to create new codes for her “techno-constellations”, or metallic visions to impose the last guideline of market demands that enclose the natural pristine virtue of water.
Some of the original images of diverse artworks of the exhibition come from Maria Veronica’s video work in Splendorous Waters Bottling Plant, at the time was owned by Mat Lucia Vallarino Peet. (Splendorous Waters or “Gold Water” is unique in Ecuador and the world; it contains colloids of gold and silver and it was discovered in 1982 in the middle of a tropical rain forest in the Ecuadorian Andes in La Mana, Cotopaxi Province). “These typical industrial worlds and realistic landscapes visually didn’t attract me, because they are product of a “capitalist illness” and the extreme man ambition that have been destroying Nature. But, based on this imposing reality, a responsible commitment and an analytic perspective, I have built an abstract, enigmatic, symbolic post-contemporary opera, to represent the giant impact of heavy industrial structures violating Nature and hiding “the secrets and truths of water”. I worked with these images to create a “futuristic opera” in three acts: Blue, Green and Black, where after all, Nature’s magnificent power has the last word in this particular “industry-nature arranged marriage”.
Suddenly, mystic symbols, magical atmospheres and constellations emerge: Rosicrucian’s, Mason’s signs, all knowledge and symbols of the Brotherhoods come universally from wise, transcendental souls, manifesting their disagreement over water abuse or misuse upon which their wisdom was subjected. But, at the end we can witness how nature will rise up, how it imposed itself, how water’ nature revolts and razes financial centers, leaving capitalist mafias in darkness, how nature protests without limits because the World does not resist anymore the drunkenness of capitalism. It is time for a long therapy. Several videos convert the scenario of a water bottling plant: shuffled rhythms on a metal background give rise to stars that open and transform like new techno-galaxies.”
The human right to water is fundamental and indispensable, inalienable, indefeasible and essential for life. Water is a common ultimate good; it is an essential geostrategic issue for the survival of any nation; when viewing water as a good of endless value for Humanity, a resource of a highly economic index, a financial asset backing nations that possess it. The global water crisis will take unprecedented proportions and will increase the growing water scarcity in many developing countries. Water resources will steadily decline because of population growth, pollution and expected climate changes. The artist generates through different reflections a scenario that foreshadows the great risks of waste and water pollution in the near future if the main responsible doesn’t take care about it. Water sources and channels that once seemed so limitless are drying up. We need flowing water in order to live, love and have light: “Water of Light, Water of Life”. The internal vision needs to be intricate to the external one, so that what is inside is reflected in the outside world.
Historically, no notion of protecting water or bottling it for human consumption existed, but rules change and international water conferences as well as communities worldwide have studied water systems and redefined their rational use. Ecuador became the first country in the world to codify the Rights of Nature, a pioneer in the global environmental sector.
Ecuador Constitution recognizes the inalienable rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish, giving people the authority to petition on behalf of ecosystems, and requiring the government to remedy violations of these rights; so that rivers and forests maintain their own right to exist and are not just a property. Under these laws, for example, a citizen can file a lawsuit on behalf of an injured channel, recognizing that the health of the water source is crucial for the common good.
“Shinny Regents Defending Water”… It is time to visualise the agony and tears of all Humanity after the unconsciousness of man, the collapse of “the material universes”. It is time to see the black future of the world nations and systems in successive parallels, this is the black act, “Black Apocalyptic Mirrors…” Maria Veronica Leon V
“I selected video as an ideal technique, since the images in movement allow me to show in a series, all the similar phases of ‘black apocalypses’ that different cultures are living in parallel dimensions at the same time; a technique that drives me to the maximal abstraction of high-tech industry irrupting in the spirit of water and the soul of human beings.
The sound of machines, hammering our psyches are the hammering of “King Money”, that day to day demands to be prostrated at its feet. Video offers a perfect choreographic interplay between present and future realities generating a singular visual reading that symbolizes new codes of freedom in front of capitalistic disaster and destruction.
Surrealistic and symbolic visions illustrate water, present and future, spring from an imagined sense of a collective elevated consciousness with greater respect for water and to what it means to Humanity. The Round Table of the Illuminati is devoured by black holes, only its shadow is left, dark mafias disappeared; the dimension of the dollar gets lost and enters the plane of memory.
“Black Holes Devouring Industrial Net” The shadow of darkness passes trough a futuristic perspective; darkness vanishes, the industrial machine as well, metallic stars lose their force and an enlightened human being arises…
Overlapping time, scenes in my work come up from a distant era to the present, towards a location in the future, that let us see the apocalyptic reality of contamination and obscurity the world has left behind. The round table of the Illuminati is devoured by black holes, only its shadow is left. Dark mafias got disappeared, they went away, the dimension of the dollar got lost and entered the plane of memory.
Tomorrow the currency will be water, air, health and survivorship and its new codes. Humanity rises; and the white lines and signs that we see are new drawings and representations of ancient cultures great wisdom, the one of our Masters, the one of Life in itself, taking us to a new collective consciousness that sustains the world in a post-contemporary awakening. And Water recuperates its Blue Transcendence…”
“The Gold Awakening”
Let’s go to the basics with this artistic practice. Visual elements and video in this section are proposing simplicity: plain materials, just hands and sand in a world where everything is complex, expensive. The transformation of simple tins into objects of “virtual gold”, a personal resource without the intervention of the machine; playful practices, the silence, the insertion of the cosmos in our humanity; sand, tin, hammer, a simple trilogy, which at its maximum expression erases the barriers of capitalism.
The ” toc toc toc tac tac tac ” is the force of man at work, the hammering of carpenters and blacksmiths; the “tic tac tic tac tic tac” is the horrible picking and needling of time; the “tuc tuc tuc tuc tuc tupi tupi tupi tupi tupi tupi tupi tu” is the deafness noise of machines, including the computer.
But what is the difference? All are synonyms of work and exploitation, laboring, the submitting of human beings, the law of clocks, the dictatorship of industrial machinery; we have already lived all of this in multiple ways; today we don’t leave the keyboard, the hammering of lyrics, mails and images, we are “the techno-slaves”.
Please let me hammer the future; to hammer the future with you; if we don’t start all over again we could disappear in a different dimension than the one we should be. Let me hammer the future, instead of following the same uniform practices of the system, let’s me take the hammer with you again and again, with any technique, without saying anything, to live the greatness of our spirits.
Gold, another capitalist symbol, object of desire, economic index will turn into a promise of beauty through a revolutionary nexus of creativity. In “Golden Working Hands” we find the lines of the future, the lines of life, the lines of consciousness and destiny.
Following our own routes, -beyond work and labour force-, I propose a pause for the palms, for our hands, it’s time to claim our liberty, to breath and turn our back on dictates, dictums or codes. I wasn’t born to be part of the masses, but to mark the difference among them…”
Maria Veronica highlights the dimension of gold through an extraordinary digital cosmography. The splendour of a rare collection of artworks bathed in light operates in space, with an identity adapted to an aesthetic of reversal and stimulates the visualization of authentic gold art in the next future.
“One of my goals is to open a new gap of creation with this metal, authentic or artificial to place it in an exclusive artistic context, with innovative ideas and aesthetic different applications. I launch some new ideas, so that gold may be elaborated in a new way within the territory from which it has been extracted, preserving it for the internal cultural and socio-economic development of the population, and stimulating the production, circulation and exportation of art made of gold, a positive revolution in the national and international market”
After a transcendental journey to Ecuadorian ancestor’s practices with gold, when they used special techniques like hammered and embossing to elaborate unusual figures and gold masks with original physiognomies, I thought strongly about the splendour of a rare collection of pieces bathed of light, operating in space with an identity adapted to an aesthetic of renewal, I signed my “contemporary location” with the elaboration of pieces of virtual or artificial gold to visualize the existence of authentic gold contemporary artworks in the next future.
Our ancestors reflected their own physiognomies, unusual bodies, and beyond their original physiognomies and wisdom is their resemblance with the God Sun. But these faces could be seen also like unique, bizarre and extra-terrestrial creatures communicating in deep space.
The artist reflects herself like a timeless creature, materialized by her own masks and acrylic chemical composition, that represents her Latin traces in a contemporary universal locality, with a developed consciousness of today and tomorrow’s phenomena.
She places the genuine talent of pre-Columbian cultures within a cutting edge structure to catapult new ideas and artworks stemming from this process to future cultural contexts, and onto the avant-garde international art landscape…
“I transport myself to an Aboriginal ancient practice, and after this transcendental journey to our “contemporary location” through the use of “virtual gold,” or artificial gold, the one that society can provide me today -acrylics, oils, gold leaf and gold sprays-, which gives the illusion of having easy access to this metal but in actuality mimics access only to its appearance, its light and its reflections. I think in the splendour of a rare collection of artworks bathed in light, operating in space with an identity adapted to an aesthetic of renewal…”
Another important topic the artist considered to put expressions for the virtual gold masks is the pain and exploitation of gold miners workers; the fact that there are some large high-tech mining companies exploiting gold, but there are still thousands of artisanal miners who are engaged in unregulated subsurface exploitation with unhealthy environmental conditions. As a negative balance of all this history of exploitation, thousands are left dead and maimed, emissions of heavy metals, suspended solids and chemical reagents that cause deterioration of the individual, water, air and soil pollute.
As well as some of these masks reflect the damages and pain caused to many workers, other important masks of this new collection reflect the desperation, stress, sadness, anxiety, craziness and exhaustion of our contemporary times.
With the elaboration of pieces of “virtual gold” or artificial gold, the artist will symbolize and stimulate the visualization of authentic gold pieces in the next future.
In this way additional value is being ascribed to the present history of this precious metal, which is the immeasurable value of creativity, and this new concept will fill the void of not having new good art in the gold field, so that with its powerful aura and presence this metal may have a more exalted value.
In order to prefigure this new collection of gold in the contemporary art scene, Maria Veronica makes allusion to the techniques of ancient Goldwork, updating them in order to work with them in a different rhythm (today’s rhythm), using “virtual gold” (acrylics, oils, gold leaf, gold sprays, etc.), giving us the illusion of having easy access to gold, but in actuality mimics only its appearance, its light and its powerful reflections.
Thanks to this new project, that includes today’s practices like recycling, that aims to express the “global anxiety”, desperation, the extreme stress, craziness and exhaustion of our contemporary times-, the image of this metal will undergo an unusual transformation to have new connotations and aesthetic applications to the art market and gold business.
The gold work of our ancestors had an interesting aesthetic background, as well as an intrinsic criterion on the physiology and psychology of represented models in their figures and masks. Like every artistic practice, a discipline of rigorous work was followed, an intense artisanal process prior to the aesthetics depuration their techniques permitted, and influenced by a broad spiritual development.
In the proposed work with art video, a new ritual with virtual gold will be seen and listened. An animistic communication with ancestors generates in me a state of trance, giving place to a sequence of predictions of the future. With hands circular movements inside a vase of virtual gold (acrylic in this case); voices and expressions bring forth, -in a way of a Babelic language-, a cosmic language without words, an universal and spiritual sung language, in which the ancestors transmit transcendental messages for a healthy future.
As a performer I use virtual gold for healing, covering body parts, like face and hands, whereby its absorption goes directly to the brain, and fosters a feeling of wellness. In all cultures we observe the practice of masking bodies and faces with different substances and colours, most pigments coming from earthly elements such as calcites, for instance, that produces a white tincture. One of the elements most abundant in the territory of Aequad’or was gold, and this is why our aborigines knew its qualities and uses.
This transcendental journey permits the review of a fundamental ancient practice: the evocation and adoration of Deities. With zooming into the gold reflective metallic radiance and transcendental identity, we have the ideal representation of the Solar deity’s magnificence. The Gold work of our ancestors has a magical aesthetic background, as well as an intrinsic criterion on the physiology and psychology of represented models in their figures and masks.
Maria Veronica has processed the dissimilarities of some contexts in which gold had been used; mainly emphasizing its use in art, and highlighting the aura of our ancestors’ wisdom associated with an ancient cosmogony. She sintezises it today in what she calls: “neo-generational words”: “divinity,” “consciousness,” “reflection,” “prevention,” “purity” and “splendour”, entering into a field of gold’s light representation and the idea of depurating our consciousness.
In ancient civilizations the gold element was a source of life; in their cosmology the four brotherly elements: earth, air, water and sun (fire) were free of cost; gold on the other hand was also free of cost, children played with gold nuggets on roads and trails, the metal was used as ornamental; Inca bathed in gold dust rubbing it into wounds on his body, exposing himself to the sun to identify with it, and fusing with the golden astro to heal internally and externally.
But later, this metal became part of a chain of exploitation and ambitious business processes throughout a long traumatic history.
“The Transgender Kitchen”
Maria Veronica’s project is built around a strong symbol: the fireplace, which is cube-shaped like an hyper-utilitarian modern kitchen, where thanks to multiple techniques in a fascinating practice the artist transforms this object into a great support for creativity.
The relevance of this realistic structure lays in its universality, thus enabling the artist to create an original work that metaphorically evokes humanity in the process of forgetting itself.
“I loved this Ikea kitchen for its geometric signature and its cubic constructivist aura as well for the luminosity of the aluminum, it is a radiant support for an artistic installation. Talking about aluminum and cubes, I used my first cubes and aluminum plates for my work, during the 90’s at Quito Fine Arts University. When I was Dean’s Printing Assistant at that school, dry point was my favourite printing technique. I produced obsessively direct incisions of stiletto knife on aluminum plates (100 x 80 cm), as obsessive has always been the use of lines in my work, the ‘infinite’ succession of lines, ‘endless lines’, a notion of eternity…”
This time I wanted to recycle this personal practice on aluminium for a bigger surface that captures my work lines to express the state of compulsivity of the world. For this occasion, I want to turn around the kitchen, change its identity, the gender, not anymore the kitchen to the kitchen, nor the kitchen for the kitchen’s sake, but an Ikea kitchen scratched by me for the first time at la Biennale di Venezia, for the first National Independent Pavilion of Ecuador at the 56th International Art Exhibition.
A kitchen suffering a transgender surgery, another of today’s practices, “a transgender kitchen”At this moment is not relevant anymore the fire or the foods that are ordinarily cooked on the kitchen, I mean the common life of this object. The fire is myself and my food doesn’t get eaten but looked upon. Ikea serving Art and, in a self-service way, I have served myself from Ikea to be assisted in my “artistic nutrition”, so that means home technicians facilitating the kitchen’s installation for an unprecedented artistic landscape. As a final point we have a collage of multiple techniques such as drawing, painting, video, digital photography on the surface of this home appliance.
This leading-edge kitchen is the receptor of new artistic dimensions that acts as the medium of a future dimensionality. A wall of a series of ovens recessed into rails shows the images of a lost paradise recalling the walls of Plato’s Cave. “Kaleidoscopic visions” introduce us to an unknown and mysterious dimension where industry appears as an altered state of reality messages and visual codes of geometric structures powerfully collide and combust into a unique language of mystical spheres and progressive signs in transdisciplinary formats.
With her video work, Maria Veronica creates innovative experiences deepening links viewer-visual impact, it means, the viewers’ shocks versus her unusual film projections, with the intention of trying to change the viewers’ video perception and their observation codes. She is interested as well in creating realities that transform the nature of the object, to place it in an unfamiliar context providing it a new identity. She crosses disciplines exploring interconnections between movement, words, numbers, and sound, within the framework of art and science.
Venice Biennale 2015
The 2015 Art Biennale closes a sort of trilogy that began with the exhibition curated by Bice Curiger in 2011, Illuminations, and continued with the Encyclopedic Palace of Massimiliano Gioni (2013). With All The World’s Futures, La Biennale continues its research on useful references for making aesthetic judgments on contemporary art, a “critical” issue after the end of the avant-garde and “non-art” art.
Through the exhibition curated by Okwui Enwezor, La Biennale returns to observe the relationship between art and the development of human, social and political reality, in the pressing of external forces and phenomena: the ways in which, that is, the tensions of the external world solicit the sensitivities, the vital and expressive energies of the artists, their desires, the motions of the soul (their inner song).
La Biennale di Venezia was founded in 1895. Paolo Baratta has been its President since 2008, and before that from 1998 to 2001. La Biennale, who stands at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends, organizes exhibitions, festivals and researches in all its specific sectors: Arts (1895), Architecture (1980), Cinema (1932), Dance (1999), Music (1930), and Theatre (1934). Its activities are documented at the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC) that recently has been completely renovated.
The relationship with the local community has been strengthened through Educational activities and guided visits, with the participation of a growing number of schools from the Veneto region and beyond. This spreads the creativity on the new generation (3,000 teachers and 30,000 pupils involved in 2014). These activities have been supported by the Venice Chamber of Commerce. A cooperation with Universities and research institutes making special tours and stays at the exhibitions has also been establihed. In the three years from 2012-2014, 227 universities (79 Italian and 148 international) have joined the Biennale Sessions project.
In all sectors there have been more research and production opportunities addressed to the younger generation of artists, directly in contact with renowned teachers; this has become more systematic and continuous through the international project Biennale College, now running in the Dance, Theatre, Music, and Cinema sections.